New 'open skies' mantra: Pay less, fly more
IANS[ MONDAY, JANUARY 17, 2005 09:45:47 PM ]
NEW DELHI: The seminal India-US aviation pact that is expected to open the floodgates of air travel between the two countries is expected to bring about a drop in airfares by 20 to 30 per cent, say industry experts.
The open skies agreement, which India and US have decided on, seeks to remove all restrictions on the number of flights, airlines and destinations between the two countries, significantly enhancing the options of commuters.
US Transportation Secretary Norman Y Mineta and Indian Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel said the Air Transport Agreement would lead to an exponential growth, giving a greater fillip and thrust to the existing passenger, air cargo and mail services.
"We can expect airfare between India and US to come down from the current $1,000-$1,500 to around $700 in the next 12 to 18 months," said Keyur Joshi, COO of an online travel portal.
Joshi said more flights and more seat capacity would substantially reduce the fare, benefiting travellers and boosting tourism and trade.
"Besides, we can have more flights to interior points like Houston, Dallas, Denver, Washington etc."
Travelling would become more frequent between the countries after the new agreement replaces the existing pact of 1956 that limited the number of airlines flying between the two countries, cities that could be served and the frequency of service.
Under the new agreement, airlines of both countries would be allowed to select routes and destinations based on consumer demand, without seeking the permission of each other's countries.
The agreement allows bilateral code-sharing with domestic Indian carriers and also permits all-cargo operators to operate in either country without involving the two governments.
Code-sharing with Indian carriers would facilitate easier reservations and more choice of flights.
Buoyed by the development, India's flag carrier Air-India is looking to add flights to Washington, Houston and San Francisco after the new agreement is in place.
"Earlier, for instance, there were restrictions against flying to both Los Angeles and San Francisco. Now there will be none," said an Air-India official.
The restrictions on number of flights to American cities would also go.
But besides Air-India, other Indian carriers like state-run Indian Airlines and private operators Jet Airways and Air Sahara are also eyeing a share in the most lucrative destinations.
The traffic between India and the US stands at two million passengers a year at present. Only three carriers offer direct flights between India and the US -- Air-India and the American operators Delta Airlines and Northwest Airlines.
But with the new pact, more American airlines like Continental Airlines and United Airlines are likely to operate to Indian cities.
From The Times of India